It’s never a good time for recreational alcohol use to become problematic. Perhaps now more than ever, though, adults across the world are struggling even more with problematic drug and alcohol use. COVID-19 has isolated us by necessity, and as we help others by distancing ourselves socially, our self-imposed isolation makes it difficult to avoid substance abuse.
For those struggling with problematic alcohol use or even alcohol dependency, we wanted today to offer a short set of practical points to consider in your fight for sobriety and a better future.
A foreword on isolation
We’ve covered in greater detail how isolation interacts with and enables problematic alcohol and drug use. This is a serious and important concept to understand if you are struggling with problematic alcohol and drug use – or want to help someone who is. Alcohol and drug use thrives in isolation, and many people with drug and alcohol problems find themselves in self-reinforcing loops of behaviour that slowly draw them away from the people and connections that could help them so much.
You can find our article on how isolation fuels and affects drug and alcohol use here. We also wrote a short piece on how to handle insomnia and poor sleep during treatment and recovery. If you’re looking for ways to help someone struggling with problematic drug and alcohol use, you can also take a look at this article.
The fundamentals of self-care and routine are often the first things to go in a time like this. It’s usually the first thing we joke about with friends and peers; how often have you heard your acquaintances laughing about business or family calls made in dressing gowns in the last few months, for instance? We don’t need to get up and shower at a fixed time right now, so why bother?
The truth is that this is very damaging for your wellbeing, and doubly so for someone who is using alcohol problematically. Resisting and conquering problematic alcohol use is a game of inches where gains are achieved through structure and a diligent approach to every hour and every day. The urge to drink never really disappears and is instead something that is resisted by having a structure in place that motivates you improves your wellbeing and keeps you sober.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s vital you embrace this fact. However your ideal routine looks, it’s vital you build it, refine it and respect it daily.
Exercise as best you can
It’s extremely beneficial to exercise to whatever extent possible for you. Many people with problematic alcohol and drug use struggle with poor self-image and self-esteem, making the spiral into deeper use a slippery slope if isolation leads to a sedentary lifestyle.
We wrote in this article about the importance of exercise during treatment and recovery. The benefits are far-reaching; feelings of depression, anxiety and trauma can be alleviated by positively focusing on your fitness. Many people drinking problematically suffer from depression due to an imbalance of the chemicals in their brain – something exercise can help to address by releasing dopamine and serotonin in a natural and healthy way.
Know your triggers – and look for new ones
Anyone fighting problematic alcohol and drug use will know, to some extent, what triggers their substance misuse. Triggers vary from person to person and can be something as benign as the clink of a glass at a restaurant to the room of a house or a specific smell. They can also relate to certain activities, such as being in a certain area of town where bars and pubs are close.
It’s important to know your triggers, but during COVID-19 and the self-isolation, it brings it’s even more critical you stay alert for new ones. The isolation we’re required to do will shift your landscape of use, bringing out new dangers that you must identify and learn to avoid.
These may be particularly intimate things, such as being in certain rooms of your house at a certain time or even simply tuning in to a TV show at a specific hour of the day, evening or night. Be diligent and, if you do drink to excess, be sure to look back at the place you found yourself in before you drank – and what put you in that position.
What Is alcohol withdrawal?
One of the clearest signs of alcohol dependency is experiencing alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal is the changes the body goes through after a person suddenly stops drinking after a binge or prolonged and heavy alcohol use. Over time, both the body and the brain become dependent on drinking frequency and patterns. When you abruptly stop drinking, your body is deprived of the effects of alcohol and requires time to adjust to functioning without it. This adjustment period causes painful side effects of alcohol withdrawal such as shakes, insomnia, nausea and anxiety.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can occur as early as two hours after your last drink, but more often they appear somewhere around the four to six-hour mark. Typically, symptoms will peak within the first 24 to 48 hours upon cessation. This is when you may experience the most uncomfortable of withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, rapid heartbeat, changes in blood pressure, sweating, tremors and fever.
Chris Cordell*, Help Me Stops General Manager says “If you are drinking dependently, i.e. every day to the level of 2 bottles of wine or more, it can be extremely dangerous to just stop and, in some cases, fatal. Please do call a professional service like Help Me Stop first before just stopping if this resonates with you”.
You can still go to rehab
Alcohol treatment is changing too. In the months ahead it is of tremendous importance that people with problematic alcohol and drug use can still access the treatment programmes they need to recovery from their use. Help Me Stop is part of that push; our online Digital Dayhab programme is designed specifically to be accessible from the comfort of your own home.
It’s intensive, affordable and effective. You can find more about it right here.
If you’d like to chat with the team directly at no obligation, please feel free to call us on 0208 191 9191. We’d love to chat. If you’d rather, you can get in touch using our contact form.
*Chris is a senior associate member of the Royal Society of Medicine, Certified International Recovery Specialist, and a member of the International Society of Addiction Medicine.